After the Oscars: Best Movies You Didn’t See in 2011

By , February 29, 2012

No offense to all of Sunday night’s winners, but here are some great movies that the Academy overlooked. (P.S. I saw all of these at the Belcourt).

Feature Films

 
Bellflower

My favorite film of 2011, this grungy anti-romance (with Medusa the flame-throwing car!) will first charm you and then mess with your mind.

 

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

This hillbilly horror spoof is far, far funnier and goodhearted than it has any right to be.  I went in skeptical but came out laughing and impressed.

 

Somewhere

This is a beautifully shot meditation on aimlessness and loneliness, brought to you by Sofia Coppola.

 

Martha Marcy May Marlene

This disturbing story of a girl who flees a cult—but can’t flee the damage it caused her—has the best ending I’ve seen in a long time.

 


Documentaries

 
The Interrupters

Directed by Steve James of Hoop Dreams fame, this tells the story of the CeaseFire program in Chicago, where former instigators of street violence now spend their days disrupting it. 

 

Tabloid

Joyce McKinney is a delightfully unreliable narrator in this Errol Morris film full of surprises.

 

 

Project Nim

The thing that sticks with you most after seeing this documentary (about a 1970’s animal behavior experiment gone horribly wrong) are the valiant efforts of a few good people to make amends.

 

Being Elmo

This Muppet-filled tale of Elmo’s human counterpart is the feel-good movie of the year.

 

 

American: The Bill Hicks Story

This is a tribute to a stand-up comic who was also a brave and despairing critic of American society.

 

-Beth

 

Book review: Why We Broke Up

By , February 28, 2012

Why We Broke Up
by Daniel Handler, art by Maira Kalman

Many of us have a bad breakup story or three in our past.   Leave it to Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) and his collaborator Maira Kalman to take the bittersweet subject of lost love and create a beautifully poignant coming of age story.  This illustrated novel is in fact a long breakup letter written to accompany the box of keepsakes being returned to the guy, Ed Slaterton,  in a last purge of hurt and disappointment by the girl, Min Green.  Each chapter begins with Maira Kalman’s illustration of an artifact collected during the whirlwind fall romance between Min and Ed.  From the bottle caps at the party where they first talked, to the jar of chestnuts bought after discussing the proper way to make stuffing, all of their time together will resonate with you and your own experiences of lost love.

Why We Broke Up is actually marketed as a young adult novel, but if you were ever obsessed with the 80′s films Some Kind of Wonderful, Pretty in Pink, or Say Anything, you’re gonna love this book!  Don’t worry, Handler’s prose is always sophisticated, even when he’s writing for a younger audience. Here’s a great example found beginning on page 64:  “I already loved you then.  Doomed like a wineglass knowing it’ll get dropped someday, shoes that’ll be scuffed in no time, the new shirt you’ll soon enough muck up filthy.”  May this book remind you of the time you were so brokenhearted you sat and listened to {insert your own album of choice-for me it was Sting’s Soul Cages on cassette} wondering how you could ever face the world again…   -crystal

Book review: Love Child

By , February 23, 2012

Love Child
By Sheila Kohler

Love Child tells the story of how a few stolen moments can affect so many lives. Set in South Africa during the 1920’s through the 1950’s the story is told through a series of flashbacks as the main character reflects on her life. This is not a story of illicit love as much as it is a story of family dynamics and expectations.

The book features an interview with the author and book club discussion questions one of which asks “is Love Child ultimately tragic or hopeful “perhaps it is a little bit of both.

Author Sheila Kohler, has written 11 books and teaches at Bennington College and Princeton.

-Karen

Legends of Film: Walter Hill interview

By , February 22, 2012

Legends of Film is proud to present a rare interview with writer/director Walter Hill.  Mr Hill has directed such movies as The Warriors, The Driver, 48 Hrs., and Hard Times with Charles Bronson.

Music Review: 2Cellos

By , February 18, 2012

2Cellos
By 2Cellos (Sulic & Hauser)

Raise your hand if you watched the Michael Jackson episode of Glee? Ok, now raise your hand if thought the cello guys during the “Smooth Criminal” battle were mostly cool, but a little bit scary? Yeah, me too.

Well…it turns out that those two guys are actually a cello duo in their own right called 2Cellos. Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser are former rivals who now play together. Their self-titled debut album came out this past summer on Sony Masterworks.

Which means, for those of you keeping score at home, the tracks are available on freegal! Yeah!

Sulic and Hauser are different from other cello duos because instead of playing Beethoven and Bach they cover U2 and Nirvana. I haven’t had a chance to listen to all of the tracks, owing to the fact that there are 12 on the album and we only get 5 a week. I’ve still go 2 more to go.

The guys aren’t covering anything super new (no Kanye here), but their technique is tight on the songs they picked. Be warned, there are some kitchy moments that kinda give off a muzak feel during a track or two. Would I pay $15-$20 to own the album? Probably not – there’s not a lot of depth to the album. But they are definately worth a few free downloads here or there.

Favorite track so far? “Smooth Criminal”, but I haven’t gotten to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” yet, so the jury is still out. Take a listen for yourself and see what rocks your world.

Happy celloing…
:) Amanda

Book review: The Lost Saints of Tennessee

By , February 16, 2012

The lost saints of TennesseeThe Lost Saints of Tennessee
by Amy Franklin-Willis

Amy Franklin-Willis first novel, The Lost Saints of Tennessee is a story of family and the struggle to love each other despite of our faults and failures.

At midlife, Zeke Cooper finds himself fleeing his West Tennessee hometown and his grief and guilt over the death of his twin brother, anger at his mother’s misplaced dreams and the failure of his marriage. He seeks solace with older cousins on their idyllic farm near Charlottesville Virginia, a place where as a young man Zeke had aspirations of graduating from the university there and perhaps becoming a writer. Making peace with his dying mother and a house full of sisters, Zeke eventually picks up his feet and continues moving along life’s journey.

Franklin-Willis’ story is southern without being hokey and emotional without being overwrought.

- Phyllis

Book review: Vogue the Covers

By , February 16, 2012

Vogue the Covers
by Dodie Kazanjian

I have been a Vogue magazine subscriber for nearly 20 years and I could not wait to get my hands on Vogue the Covers by Dodie Kazanjian.  I was not disappointed; the book was everything I thought it would be and more, it even included 5 letter size posters of vintage Vogue magazine covers.

In 1892 Vogue magazine began as a weekly society column, by 1909 it was a bi-monthly magazine and in the late 1960’s it became the monthly publication we know today.

It is amazing to see the evolution of the magazine through the collection of covers. From the black and white sketches of the turn of the century to the colored drawings of the 1920’s, to the first photograph, you get to see how the title font has changed throughout the years along with the amount of text and even the placement of text or lack thereof on the magazine’s cover. My favorite decade presented was the 1950’s, filled with timeless and elegant photos by Irving Penn.  Penn’s super sleek women wore some of the most glamorous fashions of the day. I discovered that my least favorite decade for covers were the 1980’s. The covers were all about the models face producing a decade of generic looking close-ups. There was a return to glamour in the late 90’s and into the 2000’s with lush photographs by Mario Testino and Steven Meisel and the high drama of Annie Leibovitz.

A rumor has been stirring for several months that Vogue was going to offer a digital archive of the magazine. In the December 2011 issue a small add was featured that stated “Coming soon: The Vogue Archives. Every issue, every page, and every photo from the magazine will be online in its original context – from 1892 to the present. Coming soon.” I can’t wait! But wait I will, as this blog was about to be posted I discovered that the annual subscription for an individual to access the Vogue Archives is $1,575. Good thing we can all get Vogue the Covers free from the library!

 

 -Karen

 

Book review: Lady Almina and the Real Downtown Abbey

By , February 13, 2012

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle
by Fiona Carnarvon, Countess of Carnarvon

If you’re suffering Downton Abbey withdrawal it’s time to open up Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy Of Highclere Castle by the Countess of Carnarvon, the current lady of the castle that provides the setting for Downton Abbey.

Like Cora Crawley in the PBS Masterpiece tale, Lady Almina was a wealthy heiress, the illegitimate daughter of Sir Alfred Rothschild. His fortune injected a strong dose of capital that provided electric lighting, modern bathrooms and other amenities to Highclere castle and enabled his daughter and son-in-law, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, to literally entertain royally.

One of her first duties as Lady Carnarvon was to organize a 3 day visit by the Prince of Wales which cost 360,000 pounds in today’s money and involved redecorating and copious amounts of food.  Not all was extravagance though.  Like the Crawleys, the Carnarvon’s converted their castle into a hospital during WW I.  They also played an important role in the discovery of King Tut’s tomb.

This story of the real people who lived in Downton Abbey’s set should tide you over till season 3.

- Phyllis

DVD review: A Single Man

By , February 9, 2012

A Single Man

In this sleek movie, the action encompasses a single day in the life of George Falconer, a man in deep mourning over the loss of his lover, Jim. The film marks the directorial debut of fashion designer Tom Ford. The film’s effortless elegance captures the essence of California in 1962, the architecture, the cars, the impeccable costuming and even the pen George writes with. Colin Firth’s fine performance earned him a BAFTA award for Best Actor, a Golden Globe nomination and an Academy Award nomination.

 

A Single Man is based on the novel of the same title by Christopher Isherwood.  The book and DVD are both available at the library.

 

-Karen

 

True Romance: The Young Victoria

By , February 8, 2012

The Young Victoria

Looking for something more intelligent than your standard romantic comedy for a Valentine’s Day movie night?  Try The Young Victoria, starring Emily Blunt and screenwritten by Julian Fellowes (for all of you Downton Abbey fans).  Besides the fact that Ms. Blunt is too pretty to play the reportedly dowdy monarch, the film is more historically accurate than you may expect.  And the coda about the queen’s mourning is so lovely that I still think about it on a regular basis.  To my mind, this is the most romantic movie to come out in recent years.

-Beth

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